Differences in delay discounting between smokers and nonsmokers remain when both rewards are delayed

Suzanne H. Mitchell, Vanessa B. Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Rationale: When offered a choice between a small monetary reward available immediately (SmallNow) versus a larger reward available after a delay (LargeLater), smokers select the SmallNow alternative more than nonsmokers. That is, smokers discount the value of the LargeLater reward more than nonsmokers. Objectives: To investigate whether this group difference was due to smokers overweighting the value of rewards available immediately compared with nonsmokers, we examined whether the group difference was also seen when both alternatives were delayed, i.e., when choosing between a SmallSoon reward and a LargeLater reward. Methods: In Experiment 1, smokers and nonsmokers completed a task including SmallNow versus LargeLater choices and SmallSoon versus LargeLater choices. In Experiment 2, smokers and nonsmokers completed the same task but with hypothetical choices. Results: Analyses using hyperbolic and double exponential (β-δ) models replicate prior findings that smokers discount the LargeLater reward more than nonsmokers when the smaller reward is available immediately. The smoker-nonsmoker difference was also seen when the smaller reward was slightly delayed, though this effect was primarily driven by heightened discounting in male smokers. However, for potentially real rewards only, this smoker-nonsmoker difference was significantly reduced when the smaller reward was delayed. Conclusions: The smoker-nonsmoker difference in discounting is not confined to situations involving immediate rewards. Differences associated with potentially real versus hypothetical rewards and gender underscore the complexity of the smoking-delay discounting relationship.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)549-562
Number of pages14
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 2012


  • Delay discounting
  • Gender differences
  • Nonsmokers
  • Smokers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology


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